What Did I Learn as VP Membership During The Pandemic Year
Challenge 1 – Overcome Zoom
I admit that I was nervous to become our VP of Membership (VPM). We were in the middle of a pandemic. There is an electric atmosphere about 1st London Toastmasters that drew us all to the club but I didn’t know if new members would feel the same way over Zoom. Yet where I saw a daunting challenge, the other committee members saw a tremendous opportunity. Anyone with an internet connection could now become a member. The world was at our doorstep.
It was the committee members leadership that inspired me to take on the challenge of increasing our membership in the face of the pandemic. This aligned perfectly with one of my Innovative Planning pathways which required me to manage a project. The plan was simple: we would use social media to get more guests and engage those guests to increase membership. Simple, not easy!
Challenge 2 – Increase the number of guests
We started by creating social media accounts for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Our content directed people to the club’s Zoom registration or Eventbrite page. This is where communication between VPM and VP of Public Relations is essential. In the early days, we built up followers by simply following other Toastmasters groups and people interested in public speaking, all of whom tend to follow back. Our posts told people about our upcoming meetings with all the details they needed to join. We also shared “Toastmasters Tips”, content that lifted our audience’s speaking skills. We learned that Instagram and LinkedIn created the most engagement and that people were most inspired by our tips.
While I was working on guests, the club and committee were bringing 1st London’s atmosphere to life online. Old members were being contacted in person and encouraged to join the club online. Meetings were being spiced up by workshop speeches planned by our club’s VP of Innovation (a 1st London role). Our President opened meetings with a thought-provoking question which was answered in breakout rooms that broke the ice of the zoom screen and enforced interactions between members. When guests arrived, they saw the sparks in action. By the time the evening was done, 1st London’s magic rubbed off and everyone left with a smile on their face.
Each meeting saw a new flurry of guests from all over the world. How did we engage them? We welcomed guests as they came in and gave them a breakout room with the VPM at the end of every meeting. Here, guests would learn more about what makes our club special, while getting the opportunity to answer questions in a safe environment. The aim was to build a relationship and connect with our guests. Why did they join? What do they hope to gain? What are their dreams as public speakers? The committee would follow up immediately with an email summarising the conversation and pointing them where to join. Importantly, we made it as easy as possible for guests to join the club using an online form on our website.
Challenge 3 – Sign up New Members
The results staggered us. Week after week, we were signing on new members. By January 2021, we were the second-largest club in our area. Our members hail from the US, Pakistan, the UK, Netherlands and France. We welcomed every new member in our weekly newsletter and supported their progression with a mentor. At the end of the committee year, our members old and new had completed levels, climbed the heights of icebreakers and broken personal records. All were rewarded and a second club survey showed that we had survived the pandemic storm.
I’m ending my time as VP of membership with an invaluable lesson in leadership. If you can imagine it, it can be done. Our club not only brought it’s familial energy online, but we also drew new members and inspired a generation of public speakers. If I could speak to myself at the very beginning, I would say what I now know to be true: with the help of a great team, you are capable of more than you imagine.
——— Nana Mensah
——— 1st London Toastmasters VP Membership for the 2020/21 programme year